When We Beat Alabama

Submitted by Swayze Howell Sheen on July 26th, 2012 at 11:09 PM

There has been a lot of talk about the Alabama game and a likely loss. Frankly, I am sick of it. 

So let's imagine the win instead. Suddenly, UM vaults to #1 in the country, and the path before the team becomes clear: win out (or even lose once) and play for the national championship.

Though it will undoubtedly be challenging, this team has a ton going for it:

  • Lots of coaches have their "best" year in their second year, winning a national championship
  • There are a ton of returning players, including amazing gamebreakers like Denard
  • The Big Ten is down this year (Wisconsin/MSU with a new QB, OSU adjusting to a new coaching regime, and Penn State ... er)

Discuss. Or rather, let it sink in: WE ARE GOING TO BE #1 BABY!




July 27th, 2012 at 11:14 AM ^

Cool post, bro.

I think Bama is clearly the toughest team we face. I don't think ND will be a blowout at all. We'll get MSU's best shot as always. To me, the Ohio game is the wildcard just because we have no idea what they'll look like and there's a big difference between playing a team with a new coach the first game of the season and the 12th. I wouldn't be surprised if we have 4 losses at the end of the year (worst-case scenario in my opinion), but a better record than that is probably more realistic. If we beat Bama, we should technically be able to win the rest of the games on our schedule. If we beat them and win the B1G, I will be very satisfied with this season.

Phil Brickma

July 26th, 2012 at 11:14 PM ^

Um. I highly doubt we become the No. 1 team in the country after that game. Even if we win, and I, a rational human being, don't think we will, we would probably crack the top 5. But if we aren't ranked in the top 4 before the game, we aren't going to be No. 1.

Other then that, yeah, totally. We will when because all of those other reasons.


July 26th, 2012 at 11:24 PM ^

I don't see us being rated lower than seven or so to start the year. Going to number one might be unlikely, but a top ten (possibly top five) team beating number one when everyone else comparatively sat around with their thumbs in their butt could be a recipe for getting there. From a stupid ESPN "Way Too Early" list in May:

  1. LSU plays North Texas
  2. USC plays Hawaii
  3. Alabama plays us
  4. Oregon plays Arkansas State
  5. Georgia plays Clemson
  6. Oklahoma plays UTEP
  7. FSU plays Murray State
  8. WVU plays Marshall
  9. Michigan plays 3 Alabama

I think they have us and Alabama rated a little lower than where we belong (and I think preseason polls will reflect that). I honestly don't see us outside the top two with a win in Dallas. Maybe I'm a homer, but that's my honest opinion.

Stephen Hawking

July 26th, 2012 at 11:19 PM ^

"lots of coaches have their "best" year in their second year, winning a national championship" ?

I'm too tired to research all of this but I don't think it seems likely that this statement is true.

Red is Blue

July 27th, 2012 at 12:30 AM ^

May not be the second year, but starting with Carr in '97, a lot of the coaches of national champtions are < 4 yrs at their schools:

Carr, Stoops, Coker, Tressel, Saban (LSU), Carrol, Meyer, Miles, Saban (Alabama), Chizik all won MNC within 4 yrs. 

BTW, another factor not on the OP list is senior leadership at QB.


July 26th, 2012 at 11:20 PM ^

even if we be Alabama. I'd have to guess that we start out ranked between #5-#8, while Alabama starts out ranked between #3-#5. A win over them would certainly be very nice, but not enough to jump up to #1. 

Unless Fitz returns, I really don't think we have a chance against 'Bama. However, if he does return, I think we have around a 40-45% chance to beat them.

As a side note, I think the key to beating them is to air it out, similar to Ohio's gameplan against us last year. It deviated from their normal gameplan and they had a good shot at beating us as a result. If Denard can take advantage of the inexperienced Alabama secondary, it could lead to a win.


July 27th, 2012 at 2:15 AM ^

I like the idea of attacking their secondary over the top as well.  The question is who is going to be that big play guy without Junior?  I certainly think Roy can make some plays but I'm not sure how effect he will be in that game.  I think you deploy Devin and air it out....  Denard should be a little more confident with his reads and throws this year so  the stagg might be a little more willing to take this approach. I think we have about a 40% chance with Fitz in as well,  maybe a little higher, but then again I have absolutely zero confidence in any prediction for this game........


July 26th, 2012 at 11:23 PM ^

"Lots of coaches have their "best" year in their second year, winning a national championship"

Who are you citing as examples?  Not saying no, just want to know


July 26th, 2012 at 11:46 PM ^

The BCS era coincides with a change in staffing philosophy for football; out were the old, legacy coaches that dominated programs for decades and left a trail of assistants coaching the original school. In were the new, young, skilled hotshots that coached a good game, recruited like madmen, and won early and often. Not coincidently, Michigan underperformed during this period. Not coincidently, Michigan was ethically cleaner than many of the best teams of the period.

Coker was sort of a weird exception, the classic "player's choice" coach that happened to take over one of the most talented college teams of all time. When Butch Davis left, after a season where he should have gotten a shot at the national title (they beat Florida State that year and their only loss was a close one away to an excellent Washington team), Miami wisely chose not to upset the applecart and leave Coker in charge, a guy the players liked that would continue what was already working.

Once the Davis players started leaving Coker's imprint really showed how capable he was of building his own program, and he was shown the door. It's about as well as a "player's choice" coaching hire ever goes; for how badly it can go, see Michigan State's 2002 season.

This is the reason I wanted Harbaugh to come here even if he went to the NFL after a few years; a few years under a top-flight coach like that probably gets at least a title game berth, and sets up the program for years. LSU fans have fun bagging on Saban, but the truth is that he built that program from perpetual mid-table also-ran into a national power and opened the way for Les Miles to do what he's done. Without Saban LSU is still going 8-4 every year.


July 26th, 2012 at 11:32 PM ^

I think there's a real possibility we win. Both teams are losing a lot of starters, them more than us. And they have more weapons to reload than us. But based on that, the quality of our coaches, the time we all know is being well spent teaching vital fundamentals, and the momentum that can be started by a team with a history of greatness and quality players that genuinely believe they can do anything, I see no reason we can't win.

Underdogs, yes. Were I entering the field, absolutely I'd believe we were going to win. So as a fan, I will certainly believe that we can. But I won't watch the game with my one Alabama grad friend.

And with where we will probably be ranked preseason (top ten or just outside), and the possibility that people will think it's just a fluke until we keep winning, I think there's no way we'll be #1 if we win.

But I like the attitude!


July 26th, 2012 at 11:37 PM ^

It's no surprise that Michigan fan's aren't crowing about winning this game. No surprise at all.

1. Pessimism is a no-lose proposition in a game like this; the disappointment of losing is less crushing if you've already priced it into the stock of the season. If one's hopes for the season allow for a disappointing early loss, the rest of the season doesn't look as bleak when it happens. Plus, it's a lot easier to accept losing to a loaded defending national champion that we have a winning record against in limited action than an arch-rival we think we should beat.

2. The most important reason that people aren't high on Michigan's chances is that Michigan really, really doesn't match up well in this game even if everyone is playing. Assuming Hoke suspends Fitz for the opener, Michigan's two best skill-position weapons coming into this season will both be gone (Fitz and our friendly Baylor Bear Stonum). In that scenario Michigan's best chance to win is to get a couple of bonus plays in a low-scoring tight game. Unfortunately, our defense will have a hard time getting off the field against Bama's massive offensive line. 

Michigan has a proven record of underperforming offensively against tough defenses; Denard is a difference-maker but he won't score the 30-plus points Michigan will need to win on his own. 

Could there be a surprise? Yes. But at the end of the season if Michigan goes to a Rose Bowl with two regular season losses I'm going to be happy with that, and if that happens Bama is almost certainly one of those losses.

The hope of every Michigan fan is a surprise performance like the Cap One victory over the Florida Tebows; the problem is that with how overmatched Michigan is this year, the scenario looks a lot likelier to turn out like the Cap One embarrassment against Tennessee after the 2001 season, where an out-manned and out-coached Michigan team lost every aspect of the football game and the lopsided score was in no way misleading.


July 26th, 2012 at 11:55 PM ^

Tell me, how well does a defense that lost half it's starters match up against a spread offense? And other than the Florida Tebows and the Auburn Newtons, how Many SEC offenses are even a little bit impressive or imaginative? They haven't faced a team like this yet, and there isn't a linebacker that has a shot stopping Denard on that team. I am cautiously optimistic about Michigan winning, but I think Saban is more worried about stopping our offense than Brady Hoke is worried about stopping a vanilla pro style attack lead by a QB that couldn't start for Michigan unless the bus crashed on the way to Jerryworld. I like our chances.


July 27th, 2012 at 12:25 AM ^

You got negged for trolling, but I actually think those are some legitimate questions.

"How well does a defense that lost half it's <sic> starters match up against a spread offense?"

By replacing those starters and blowing up the point of attack just like they always have. Nick Saban defense are extremely well-coached; there may be a bit of drop-off, but not a whole lot.  We already know that a strong defense can do serious damage to Michigan's offensive production.

"How many SEC offenses are even a little bit impressive or imaginative?"

Well, you dismissed the Tebows and Newtons, but those were/are rather imaginative offenses. So is Arkansas, which was loaded with talent last year and lost convincingly. Additionally, the unimaginative offensive styles still contain an awful lot of talented players that move on to the NFL and immediately start scoring touchdowns.

Michigan's spread isn't particularly unusual and its personnel are not yet up to SEC level; it would take a Cam Newton-type day from Denard to win, and by that I mean passing. 

"They haven't faced a team like this yet"

Oh yes they have. Several times last year and again the year before, except usually with more talent on the outside and better passing ability. Look, I think the SEC gets overhyped as much as the next guy, but Michigan's non-Denard skill personnel are not particularly impressive even by Michigan standards. Michigan has had at least a dozen teams since the dawn of the Lloyd Carr era with more non-QB skill position talent than this year's team. We're not putting Breaston and Edwards or Manningham and Arrington out there, and our best RB probably won't even see the field.

"Stopping a vanilla pro style attack"

"Pro style" isn't the same as "vanilla," and Alabama's offense is well-coached. They scored 34.8 points a game last year, which may not sound impressive but bests Michigan's average by 1.6 per game and is better than Michigan has averaged in all but one of the last 20 seasons. 

Alabama's "Vanilla Pro Style" attack is going to run the ball down Michigan's throat to take advantage of the huge trench mismatch, and on occasion throw the ball to talented receivers with space cleared by play-action. Martin and RVB are not there to stop the run. Charles Woodson is not playing coverage. Michigan's talent is weak by its own standards, not just by the standards set by Alabama. 

"I like our chances"

I hope you're right, but 32 years of watching football won't let me share your optimism. If we win and you say "I told you so," I will joyfully agree that you were right.



July 27th, 2012 at 1:51 AM ^

Just a few questions.

1. What makes you think they can just "replace" the ridiculous amount of talent they lost on def? You can say they just reload, but even coral gables went from 7 first rounders each year to mediocre, there are very little guarantees in cfb when it comes to "reloading"

2. You speak of their talented receivers.

Last I hear, Bama lost it's top 3 pass catchers from last year.

3. You talk of their ppg from last year. Almost everyone who contributed to that is gone. Sure they are bringing in talent, but what are the chances it's Trent Richardson? Gardner was highly rated, how excited are you for him to replace Denard?

I guess what I don't understand from people that insist we are going to get smoked, is how everyone is so sure we can't replace 1 WR and 2 DTs. But Bama is going to replace 2 first round secondary players, it's entire LB core, some of it's dline, it's entire set of receivers, an OL and their starting RB without missing a beat.

Sten Carlson

July 27th, 2012 at 12:18 PM ^

"I hope you're right, but 32 years of watching football won't let me share your optimism"

Well, 35 years of watching football is why I am optimistic.  As I said below, CFB is very hard to predict from one season to the next, especially in the first game.  Sure, that goes both ways, but if the number one predictor of continuing the success is the number of returning starters, Michigan has the edge.  If all those years of watching football haven't taught you that anything can happen, and very often the better team on paper doesn't necessarily win the game, then I think you should pay more attention.

As I said, I am not taking anything away from Alabama, they're a great program and have had a great run of late.  But, they have a lot of questions to be answered that will only be answered on the field.  So do Michigan, to be sure, but I think Michigan has fewer and less profound questions right now.  I think most a basing their opinion on reputaion alone, and I can promise you that Hoke & Co. will instill respect for Alabama, but in no way will Michigan fear Alabama.  Our boys will come out with nothing to lose and something to prove.  Can the same be said for the Tide?